Friday, October 28, 2016

This is What It Feels Like...

...to be depressed. At least for me.

The Sun Dispels the Morning Fog by William Posey Silva

Sorry you can't see the painting better. 

When I saw this painting in Greenville, SC, I connected to it. This is what it feels like when I'm depressed. I don't necessarily feel sad. I feel like all my emotions are muted. I don't feel excited about anything. I just move from moment to moment.

I was trying to think about an analogy. I think this one works. 

Imagine you're driving your car through a thick fog. You can see maybe ten, maybe fifteen, feet in front of you. You know that there is a world outside the fog. There are other cars. Houses. Fields. Trees. The sun. However, you can't see any of that. As you drive along, you start to get tense. It's a lot of work just doing this mundane thing, driving. You have to keep an eye on the lines painted on the road. They're the only thing that keeps you on track. Every now and then great, shadowed shapes loom up in the fog. You can't make out any details, but they are terrifying. Cars, not using their headlights, the bastards, zip by, the noise and motion sudden and terrifying. An interruption to the drive. You get quiet, focused on the task. You know that, due to stress, any response you make to the passengers in your car will be harsh. Almost violent. When driving in the fog, it's easier to stick to routes and streets that you know. Driving down a new road is an extremely stressful experience. You can't see the street signs. You can't see any landmarks. The fogged-over road is your world. Nothing exists outside of it. 

The road rises high  enough that you're above the fog. The sun shines. From above, it doesn't even seem like there's fog on the valley floor. You can see everything. You relax. Turn on the music. Maybe sing. Laugh with your passengers. It feels like you can do anything. Looking back, you realize you didn't know just how awful it was to be in the fog. Now that you're out you don't want to go back. Unfortunately, the road will dip and fog will come again. 

I've been lucky. I've never had anyone ask, "Well, why don't you just snap out of it? Depression is just being sad. Decide to not be depressed!" 

If only it were that simple. 

Sometimes, realizing I'm depressed will help me start to rise up out of the fog. I can try to take roads I know will help me feel more light, guide me toward the high ground. Unfortunately, I'm not always near those roads and finding the right path can be tricky. 

I can't control thick fog surrounding my vehicle. I can't control the chemicals in my brain from numbing my emotions and causing me to feel helpless, that I can't do anything. I do have techniques I can use to help me through those times. But using the wrong one can be worse than doing nothing. Ever used your high beams in a fog? It's doesn't always help. The fog can reflect all that extra light right back into your eyes. 

Listening to songs or watching TV shows you enjoy can help. If the depression is deep enough it can hurt. It scares me when I realize that I don't feel a connection to something I enjoy. 

So what can you do when someone you love is depressed? That's probably a better question for Chelsea. I think invitations to do small things is good. Especially the invitation part. Give me a choice. Let me know that there aren't going to be tons of people there, or that there isn't going to be anything required of me. I think if you choose something I've done before, that makes it easier as well. To be honest, each depression is a little different. And it's different for everybody that goes through depression. Sometimes just asking if there's anything you can do to help is helpful. Don't expect an answer right away. Just leave the offer hanging. 

And that's what depression feels like. To me anyway.


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